A quick refresher: multiple environmental groups filed lawsuits against Nestle for continuously withdrawing millions of gallons a year from Strawberry Creek in San Bernardino National Forest with a permit that expired in 1988, or over 25 years ago.
When the news first broke in 2015 Nestle defended its right to syphon and remove local resources in a protected national forest with an expired permit during a record-breaking drought by publishing an op-ed in The Sun.
Now, the federal judge overseeing the case has decided that he needs more information before ruling if the government has made a mistake by allowing Nestle to continuously drain Strawberry Creek of water 28 years after the permit that allowed Nestle to do so has expired.
The judge, Jesus G. Bernal, has requested briefs from Matt Kenna, the attorney representing the environmental plaintiffs in the case, and Andrew Smith, the attorney representing the U.S. Forest Service. The judge has asked the attorneys to examine U.S. Forest Service regulations and determine if they fall under the Federal Administrative Procedures Act. This piece of legislation informs the federal government how to conduct business in these manners.
The hearing in which the judge determined he needed more information took place last month. Michael O’Heaney, the executive director of The Story of Stuff, one of the environmental groups that filed the lawsuit, has said that the hearing and the lawsuit are just one aspect of a multi-pronged approach to challenge the actions of Nestle.
“I think the judge asked good questions and clearly had the government’s attorney off-balance,” O’Heaney stated. The long process can be discouraging, he also admitted. “I would have loved to have heard (the judge) say from the bench that the permit is invalid and Nestle should stop taking water.”
Steve Loe, a wildlife biologist in the San Bernardino National Forest, expressed gratitude that the judge seemed perturbed by the inaction of Nestle and the U.S. Forest Service in the 28 years since the permit expired.
““I hate to see the case depending on a couple of words in some regulation when the real issue is continuing to remove massive amounts of water from public land in the most severe drought in recorded history using a permit that has never been updated as required to protect the environment,” Loe also iterated in an email to The Press-Enterprise.
As the attorneys compile further briefs and hope for an additional hearing, Nestle continues to profit from its expired profit and bottle water from Strawberry Creek under its Arrowhead label. Bottled water, in addition to creating plastic waste, creates many severe major problems for wildlife and the environment where the water is taken. Don’t contribute to the destruction of our planet – drink filtered water and use refillable sports bottles instead.